The Hot Blog Archive for October, 2016
Box office writers are forever trying to narrow things down to a trend story. I fight this. But today, it is worth discussing one trend that is very real… and has been real for decades, perhaps starting in the Home Entertainment era with Eddie & The Cruisers… II.
Cable, VHS and then DVD inspired overreach in 1989 and for a long time after. The notion was that a film would build a bigger audience in Home Entertainment and that would create a larger audience for the next in the series. Sometimes, it took. Sometimes, it didn’t. Mostly, it created an upper tier of direct-to-DVD (or Direct-to-Blockbuster in the VHS era).
In the last few years, the new revenue territory that has created the IP Era is international. The idea of finding a new and perhaps bigger audience overseas both extends the life of franchises and has inspired studios to relaunch franchises that in many cases – we are learning – were better off as good memories.
The trend line for all of this began with the Fast & The Furious series, which launched as an oversized success, then fell off domestically on 2 Fast 2 Furious but more than made up for it with an international bump. It wasn’t massive, but it meant that the overall worldwide gross was higher. So the third film experimented with going overseas (Tokyo Drift)… the domestic dropped by half, but the international remained stable (off 12%, back when domestic was seen as a big influence on foreign).
The big leap was making the fourth film, Fast and Furious. Even with the international uptick, Tokyo Drift was the worst performer of the first trio. And everything was trilogy-oriented back then. The expected choice would have been direct-to-DVD with a seriously reduced budget. But instead, they invested in getting Vin Diesel back and the film did almost as much international-only as any of the other films had done worldwide. The title also hit a new domestic high. So on to Fast Five, which more than doubled the international gross from $208m to $426m. Worldwide was $626m, making it a major franchise, on par with Bond or even better.
But international growth wasn’t done. F&F6 went up another 5% internationally. But then Furious 7 broke the billion-dollar line, the new holy grail for studio franchises. And not only did it break it, it broke it on international alone, with $1.16 billion. There was also domestic growth, but it was a side issue in comparison.
A big factor in the story is China, which in the case of F&F, went from $66 million on #6 to $390 million on #7. China, in terms of actual money coming back to studios, worth about half of what other international territories are. But that’s still about $80 million in rentals from one country outside of America. Big money in a low-margin business.
But… when all the wind-up monkeys start banging their cymbals to the same tune, it doesn’t always go so well.
This year, the chickens came home to roost on this trend. There are multiple categories of how these play out.
No Expecting Much Domestic But Hoping To Top Marketing Costs
(Succeeded With: Paddington)
Bridget Jones’ Baby
Old IP Hoping That A Big Audience Is Waiting
(Succeeded With: Anchorman 2)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Variations Seeking To Do Worldwide Business Over $400 Million, 30% Domestic Or More
(Succeeded With: Fast & Furious)
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
Independence Day: Resurgence
Some successes, some failures. But the dangerous ground is the attempts to re-launch the more expensive titles and to hope they blow up to greater size.
Long discussion short, Inferno joins that last group. The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons are, by far, Ron Howard’s biggest grossing films and the only films of his to do over $200 million internationally. Inferno is already at $132m internationally, no matter how weak the domestic opening. Would Sony prefer that it gross more than $100m domestically? Obviously. But whatever it does here, it looks like $300m-plus worldwide, which means profits.
Of the list of “bigger” films, only Ben Hur failed to get to $100 million internationally. Still, of the six movies listed for 2016, all but three of the seven (Inferno, Jason Bourne, and Warcraft) will lose money.
So is the problem real? Yeah. Is it an infection that affects the whole film business? No.
What jumps out as the most obvious factor. Da Vinci 3 and Bourne both have movie star leads/characters intact. Huntsman dropped Snow White, ID2 lost Will Smith, Ghostbusters flipped (making it a successful Paul Feig comedy but not a successful mega-movie) and Ben-Hur counted on a director’s iconoclastic style, which sold big—once—when he had Angelina Jolie kicking ass. He didn’t have a star to open this one.
This jumps out from the casting of other big films this year. Captain America: Civil War had Iron Man as well as first-ever cameos by Ant-Man and Spider-Man, plus the premiere of Black Panther to add even more value. Suicide Squad barely had Batman… but he was in every ad.
Conversely, X-Men: Apocalypse put the box office exclusively on the shoulders of Jennifer Lawrence. Powerful shoulders, but less so in blue paint.
Then sometimes, you get a new idea with a relatively obscure character that people fall in love with… Reynolds’ Deadpool, as Downey’s Iron Man was before him. Or you get something that may seem played out, like The Jungle Book, that actually delivers something that audiences haven’t seen in this age of supposedly having seen everything.
Or… you get a movie like Warcraft in which the domestic audience just doesn’t care. And the international audience is so strong that you now only get to profit, but you wonder whether they will even bother with the domestic theatrical next time out.
Okay… that was that…
Moonlight‘s expansion is even more impressive than its four-screen/$100k+ number last weekend. $23,940 on 36 is a very impressive number. For reference, last year, Ex Machina expanded to 39 in weekend two and did $20,478… went on to gross $25 million. If Moonlight does over $20 million, people are going to soil their show biz diapers.
The other recent comparison would be The Imitation Game… but that had different variables, in terms of commerciality and as it closed in on Oscar nods, expanded to 1566 screens. Moonlight isn’t going on 1500 screens. Ever. So the $90 million fantasy is just that. But still, huge win for A24, which also made hay this year with The Witch ($25m) and the abandoned The Lobster, which got to $8.7m on a very short turnaround once they picked it up.
Only other indie in the $10k-plus arena is Jim Jarmusch’s Iggy Pop & The Stooges doc, Gimme Danger.
This one makes sense.
Not every piece of it lines up. There will be regulatory issues. But the AT&T/Time-Warner merger makes sense for both companies, as well as the public.
Until the United States government decides that the internet is a utility and must stand alone as such, we will see more of this consolidation of content and delivery systems.
Disney, Fox, Sony, and Viacom lack major co-partners that also own a delivery utility. This will change. It will probably change for Netflix at some point, too.
I have been saying for what feels like a very long time that the missing commodity in the Streaming Era is the massive studio libraries. They have been sitting there for a few years, waiting for their lasting value to be determined. And the answer is is that they are greatest long-tail bait possible.
There is a giant, insane maze of rights, both domestic and international, for all the studio libraries. But as each year passes, the tangles get a little less tangled and holding on to those streaming rights gets more and more attractive.
At the same time, a library like Disney’s, skyrockets in value for streaming… even if they are stuck in a Netflix output deal for the next 4 years. When Netflix agreed to a $350 million a year deal for Disney streaming, it was an insane amount of money. Today, you can be sure that Disney feels like it is getting royally screwed and that the value is a lot closer to a billion a year. And to Netflix, it would be worth even more than that, as they will be able to cut back on original programming by a billion or more with Disney as cover, likely building paid domestic subs by 10% or more next year when the number has now been pretty flat for over a year.
Not every studio’s library is worth a billion a year to a as-of-yet-not-built streaming business. But we are heading there… and higher.
There are already an absurd number of overpriced streaming opportunities out there. $15 a month for a narrow swath of content can’t be the future for the entire industry. Or $8 a month for TV that is otherwise free over the air. But serious competition is coming and the content companies are getting ready for that battle, slowly holding onto more rights more tightly until they launch their juggernauts.
The starting gate of all of this has Comcast holding the cable universe as a priority and AT&T focusing on satellite. Both are selling access to the web for streaming. Disney is sitting back, struggling on the TV network side, the next obvious target but without a web access company big enough to eat that company whole. And Fox, which owns the fourth and final major broadcast network, seems to want to be the aggressor, not the pursued.
I still believe that the future of post-theatrical film is subscription-driven and will allow access to nearly everything that exists. Delivery system will, in time, become irrelevant to everyone except for those making money by providing said systems. A function of utility.
A mega-company like AT&T/Time-Warner (AT&TW?) will do many things which will compete separately with other companies. I see the question less as about self-dealing than about prohibiting the big company from hiding massive amounts of content behind exclusive walls.
Of course, exclusivity is not purely a product of mergers. Most Time-Warner movies appear – at least in the first years of their lives – only on HBO/Cinemax. Disney and Sony have been in exclusive deals with STARZ/Encore for years. Paramount has been a part of EPIX. Showtime, after parent CBS broke from Paramount, has been a bit of a hodgepodge on the movie side. The studios were split up amongst the cable nets decades ago. Nothing new there… except ownership.
I do agree that this massive company will be unwieldy to manage. I wouldn’t be shocked if, in 5 years or so, the company were to split itself into 2 companies: AT&T Utilities and AT&T Entertainment. It would be a lot more complicated than this, but it would, essentially, give Time-Warner a MVPD of its own in DirecTV, much as NBC/Universal has Comcast.
Both DirecTV and Comcast are already working on the combination of “cable” and a significant streaming presence. But it’s still half-assed, especially on DirecTV. These consolidations are defensive, not aggressive. How will Comcast Cable or DirecTV’s satellite service survive in a world of streaming anything at anytime anywhere?
They can’t, as they are now. Even with control of the content companies, there are massive changes to come. MVPDs will become primarily the live and premiere window for content. Post-premiere will be accessible in multiple ways, with little control aside from possible windowing, in the hands of the content companies. Corporations love predictability over almost everything. They are not looking to create the newest volatile market.
The next great magic trick is not about consolidation or whose wire you are watching content on… it will be about how to maximize the long-tail world and how to generate big enough revenue streams in that long-tail world to sustain new content.
There will always be a hunger for whatever is next… but how much hunger for how many outlets delivering how many hours of television or theatrical-level “film” every month/year?
As I have written before, the danger of day-n-date is not that the market wouldn’t find balance between the films that work well with that distribution pattern after a period of extremes (not unlike what we are seeing in the streaming universe right now). The problem is that the process of finding balance for the distributors would likely be quite destructive for exhibitors (as we are seeing in the indie world right now), changing the foundations on which this is all built.
But this is far afield from the mergers of the moment.
The cost of leasing top-end new content was multiplying, so Netflix shifted to their original content strategy, which has actually slowed the growth in value of streamed content a bit.
Ever since Netflix created the streaming market – and make no mistake, they were the absolute first mover outside of free YouTube – the clock has been ticking on the value of selling content to Netflix (and those that have followed) being overcome by the value of content creators selling streaming content themselves.
The AT&T/Time-Warner merger is the first tipping point event. Time-Warner has been, really, more aggressive than anyone (pre-Comcast/NBC/U merger) about trying out the streaming waters. They’ve built Warner Archives, first as a DVD service and then as a streamer. They’ve bought existing online businesses, like Flixter (and Rotten Tomatoes with it), before dumping it earlier this year… not the solution. They bought into Hulu this summer, which I would imagine is someone’s next takeover target… a LOT cheaper and with less-focused leadership than Netflix.
With AT&T as a parent, I would expect that Time-Warner will sell off its 10% of Hulu and build its own “NewFlix,” putting a mixture of new and old WB library content, film and TV, into a OTT, discounted for DirecTV subscribers, but at a price comparable to Netflix for anyone who wants to subscribe.
Disney still seems to me to be the logical eventual buyer of Netflix.
And that leaves Paramount, Sony, and Fox.
Sony, through its PS3 programming, has the best shot at building their own standalone OTT distribution.
I like Fox to end up with Hulu as its OTT base.
And Paramount’s world changes massively in a re-merger with CBS, the only broadcast network with a paid OTT business in operation.
6 major OTTs at $12 a month is $72 a month, leaving roughly $30 – $48 a month for everything else.
If Comcast and AT&T are making solid revenues providing internet access, they can press that advantage and also offer a better level of service by adding (as such) cable/satellite access service as an add-on to the OTT service.
That puts a new kind of value on Charter (which bought Time Warner Cable to become the #2 internet provider in the US), Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint… as well as Google’s expanding internet access service.
I’m sure, as all these companies consolidate and experiment, that there will be an ugly few years of fighting over who gets what share of the somewhat inflexible pie. But in the end, I still see much more content, available with much more flexibility, for everyone at a price not much different than what people are spending on cable/satellite today.
Don’t fear The Merger. Everyone will always feel like they are paying too much or being left out for not being willing to pay that fare. But there is no scenario in which I see the consumer who is willing to spend within current norms getting less for their money 5 years from now… especially 10 years from now.
The threat is to the ecosystem of new original content, not to the consumer. Because the longer the tail on content, the less wide an audience focused on what is new, the fewer dollars to keep that machine going (or at least, the less motivation for content creators who are already deeply invested).
The newcomers land in the same order as they did Friday, Madea leading, but there are some “funny” estimates for the 3-day, which may shift when Sunday numbers are counted. The only change in order might be Ouija 2, which could fall behind The Accountant for #4. Also accelerating, after an excellent four-screen launch on Friday, is Moonlight, with an estimate that is even more stellar than expected, leading the exclusives by a distance.
BooMadea’s estimate seems a mill or two high… but still #1. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back gives an honest estimate, which could actually go up a little, a 51% improvement on the first in the series. Ouija: Origin of Evil also estimates high, fighting off The Accountant for the #3 spot. Ouija 2 may well fall to #4 tomorrow, but will still likely be equally profitable or more profitable than the Affleck thriller. Keeping Up With The Joneses couldn’t keep up with six other movies and is better than that, but probably not good enough to get a word-of-mouth surge that would alter its trajectory. A trio – aside from the Wonder Woman to come – of actors who are well-liked, but don’t to inspire people to buy tickets.
Suicide Squad is holding to hit $325m domestic… which made me look at the year and the massive disparity between the top 8 titles so far and the rest. Jason Bourne is the #9 movie of the domestic year to date and it is almost exactly HALF the box office of #8, Suicide Squad.
The are NO titles between $175 million and $320 million. NONE. That hasn’t happened in the domestic box office since 1988, when Rainman was the #1 movie of the year with just under $175 million. Almost 30 years and a whole different box office universe, pre-DVD.
The disparity is not evident at the international box office, though there is a near-$200 million hole in the worldwide box office between $553 million for The Mermaid and Suicide Squad‘s $744 million. The worldwide target for “the big movies” (budgeted over $175 million) to be safely into profit is…. perhaps not coincidentally… $600 million.
I’m not saying that all the bigger budget films that don’t do $600 million are money losers. There are many variables in budgets and in post-theatrical revenues. $500 million is the edge of danger (though there could still be black ink, in reality, if not on the studio books). And not every $600 million grosser will be profitable… but the vast majority will.
I don’t know exactly what this means or the root causes. Each film is its own universe. One can hardly say that Jason Bourne‘s $401 million worldwide makes it a “have not.”
For all the complaining in the media, there are only five bigger budget money losers this year so far: The Huntsman: Winter’s War, The BFG, Alice Through The Looking Glass, Star Trek Beyond, and Independence Day: Resurgence. Others that seemed like big trouble were saved internationally (from Warcraft to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows). And Ben Hur wasn’t that expensive (but it will lose money).
And unlike the constant refrain in much of the media, caused by the very same media’s misreporting of the industry, there were about 20 movies released by studios this year that were just around or over $150 million in production costs. That is a quarter of the releases. And I am not including Dependents (Searchlight/Focus/SPC) or any of the indies. Just major studios, where I include Tri-Star, Screen Gems, and New Line.
The BIG movies with the BIG budgets and the BIG grosses or the DISAPPOINTING grosses are like a shiny object to press. And while 20 such movies is a lot and a higher percentage than in the past, the illusion that this is all that major studios now do is false.
And I hate to break it to the media (wait, that’s me), but The Secret Life of Pets and Deadpool, both massive hits, may stink of IP, but were relatively cheap. They lead 21 $75-million-or-less homegrown studio releases that have grossed over $100 million worldwide.
Did I mention that Moonlight had a great 4-screen opening? It did.
Also a strong start for The Handmaiden on 4… but not close to Moonlight.
I suspect that 90%+ of audience members going to either film will come out buzzing with movie joy.
And the superstunt for the election is Michael Moore in Trumpland, a spoken-word concert event by Moore talking to, as I gather, a crowd of Ohio Trump supporters. $20,850 per on two screens before its immediate iTunes bow.
Not an interesting weekend, all things considered. Lots of soft franchise openings and a failed launch of what could have become a comedy franchise.
Madea is back to her traditional level of business. A little behind, but the details of opening don’t seem to matter to the final domestic number with this franchise. But look for a $53m – $65m gross total, which is what Madea does (with only one outlier… Madea Goes To Jail). Madea has never once done more than $1.3m internationally.
Jack Reacher also returned this weekend, though the Paramount ads were so dark and off-center that I wasn’t quite sure who they were after. The teen boy hard-R audience, perhaps? In any case, they kicked the original opening’s ass by 74%, which is impressive. Still, the domestic launch looks to be around $25 million, which is good, but hardly breathtaking. The expectation, no doubt, is that most of the revenue will be international. And if international also reflects the level of domestic uptick, this movie would do $350 million-plus… which would make it a hot, rising franchise produced at a pretty reasonable budget.
Ouija: Origin of Evil appears to spell “mediocre,” but with cheap production, it’s hard to lose on these bets, Even falling well off the original (original knock-off of a board game, that is), this seems destined to be profitable, if not a new house in London for anyone.
What happened to Keeping Up With The Joneses? Nothing. They just didn’t sell the thing effectively. The movie was better than the ads… which is not a good thing. There is something missing from the formula to keep it from being the comedy Mr & Mrs Smith (perhaps movie stars?), but it’s not lacking entertainment value. If they had sold the third act turn, instead of the jokes that tested biggest, perhaps they would have been better off on opening weekend.
The arthouse is back to life. Moonlight is killing it for A24 with $32,500 per screen on Friday and over $60k per screen for the weekend. The Handmaiden did $4750 per screen on four and will be over $10k for the weekend. And Trumpland, the last-minute Michael Moore concert film (now available on iTunes) did a handsome $5,300 per on two on Friday.
(With apologies to those who read me only for movies… don’t read this piece if you don’t want to discuss politics.)
About half an hour ago, I met up with a friend, his 6-year-old daughter, my 6-year-old son, and my wife. Within 10 minutes, he had left in a hurry because I was “too aggressive” after he started, “But Hillary…”ing me after we initially were agreeing about Trump.
With that, I realized I have no room for equivocation anymore. And it has nothing to do with me loving Hillary or disregarding her many problems from decades past and even her run as Secretary of State.
When we agree that Donald Trump is highly likely of being a serial sexual predator, I am done. “But she” is no longer a conversation I am willing to have.
If WikiLeaks were to come up with an e-mail, hacked or not, that believably asserted that she had committed a real crime (not lying, not being overly artful in posturing, not using the wrong e-mail server for 40 e-mails in four years, etc), then I would be willing to engage a conversation that in some way suggests an equality of flaws between her and Trump.
But until then, no.
My friend posited, “Who is worse? An enabler or the person who does bad?”
Really? Is that a serious question?
I have many issues with enablers… but the person who does the damage of their own accord is worse, unless they were somehow hypnotized or drugged or forced into their behavior by said enabler.
Not just “worse.” That is too gentle a phrasing. An enabler can be a victim his or her self. They can be managing a bad situation as best they can. Really, it is often very hard not to enable someone you love when they are doing bad things. Leaving them to their sickness can feel like you are contributing to making it worse. It’s a horrible place to be. Yes, some enablers get off on their enabling. But I believe that most are just trying to find a way to make it all stop.
The person acting out is most likely a victim as well. Few people who are abusive didn’t learn to be that way other than being themselves abused.
It occurred to me that if Donald Trump had Nate Parker’s history, I would be more forgiving. At least Nate Parker went through the process of litigation and had to face his accuser and the law. The flaws in that system are a different discussion, but I don’t believe in throwing rocks at people who have been acquitted. It is fundamental to our justice system that we accept outcomes, even if we believe them to be incorrect or misguided.
In the case of Donald Trump, it is not clear that he has raped anyone. His first wife accused him of marital rape and later withdrew the claim. He is accused of sex with a 13-year-old in connection with Jeffrey Epstein (with whom Bill Clinton is also connected), but the case was already dismissed in one court and the issue is too blurred to be held with a clear presumption of truth (which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen).
The truth is, I don’t think Trump is capable of rape. I believe that he gets off on the idea that women adore and want him and that having to forcibly penetrate a woman would leave him flaccid. But that’s just my take.
But everything else… it all fits like a glove. The more he talks, the more it fits.
It makes sense that the only woman who accuses him of assaulting her near a bedroom with the intent of bedding her on the spot is the only person he knew well enough to engage with in an actual social interaction. All eight other accusers accuse him of hit-and-run assaults, presumably with the wished-for outcome being a full-on sexual encounter.
And look at this grid of pictures of the women accusing him…
Back in the Lewinsky days, a friend said that the minute he saw Lewinsky, he knew it was true because she was so Bill Clinton’s sexual type. He was right.
So look at the grid. Obviously there are variations on looks, but there is only one woman here who doesn’t fit in the looks department… and that’s dark, dark haired, eyebrow-y Cassandra Searles, a Miss USA contestant.
I had thought he was doing this somewhat randomly… but this makes it clear that he has a type. Noses. The shape of the face. Look at all the dimples and face creases. Not identical twins, obviously. But even the women with darker hair fit his very specific profile. And look at what isn’t there… any non-white Northern European ethnicity.
You know who also fits this grid visually?
Put a pair of glasses on her and you couldn’t tell her apart from Jessica Leeds.
This is what I would call strong circumstantial evidence. But I don’t need to rely on that to make the case against Trump today. His own words, the many accusations, and logic suggest that Donald Trump is a sexual predator.
If you chose not to believe it, we can have that argument. But if you do believe it, there is no excuse to have any further discussion.
The idea that America would knowingly elect a sexual predator for any reason, short of his opponent being arguably guilty of a similar level of criminality, would create a crisis not only in America, but across the globe.
And if both candidates of major parties were literally – not hyperbolically – guilty of criminal acts against Americans, then we should be having a revolution, because it is unthinkable.
But that is not where we are. You can hate Hillary Clinton all day and twice on Sunday but she’s not out there putting hands on people’s genitals who don’t consent and feeling she can get away with it because she is powerful. She has been investigated endlessly (which makes her suspicious), but no one has ever caught her doing anything illegal. That’s just facts.
By the way, this is why Monica Lewinsky is not part of the Trump spin… because though there was a power inequity (which I still have a major issue with), it was consensual. And Trump is desperate to make the case that his nonconsensual acts were less bad or equally bad to Bill Clinton’s. Of course, there is a big distinction, as the Bill Clinton accusations being discussed now involve one case of no sexual contact and two in which there seems to have been actual intercourse, not seemingly random acts of casually-made abuse.
Paula Jones, if you believe her, was never touched by Clinton. He allegedly propositioned her and showed her his penis. If that is true, it remains disgusting. But it is not assault. And remember, she says this happened before he was in office, then filed a suit while he was in office and preparing to run for reelection.
Clinton had sex with Kathleen Willey, but Linda Tripp, amongst others, said it was consensual and Ken Starr found that her testimony that it was forced was untrue. (Also worth noting: this accusation was made while Clinton was in office.)
The only other accusation was Juanita Broaddrick, who testified under oath to Paula Jones’ legal team, that she had not been raped by Bill Clinton, but later flipped her position under the increased influence of right=wingers in her life and in response to Clinton’s presidential run.
Whatever you think of Bill Clinton, these situations are apples and oranges.
If Bill Clinton were – in magicland – running for The Presidency today and Broaddrick (the only sexual allegation involving any physical contact) turned up in the months between the convention and the election and she had not previously been deposed saying Clinton had not raped her, I would be saying the same thing about Clinton that I am saying today about Trump.
But the fact is, none of these three women were accusing Bill Clinton of anything before he became President. This doesn’t make them liars. But it does make the circumstances very different.
Democrats and Republicans who voted for Clinton did not vote for someone, or elect a President, who was under a legitimate, albeit not-yet-litigated cloud of criminal sexual misconduct.
The only woman on the grid above who had any kind of consensual sexual relationship with Donald Trump was his first wife. She used the word “rape” in her book, which she has since edited out.
Personally, I don’t care about what Donald Trump did in his sex life over his 70 years. Cheat? So what? Sleep with hundreds of women? I don’t care.
Intentionally Walking into young women’s dressing rooms when they are naked?
Saying he feels free to touch or kiss women without consent with impunity because he is rich and/or famous?
Touching any woman on her genitals or breasts or putting his hand up their skirt?
Mocking the women, particularly about their looks?
There is nothing about Trump’s behavior or words, in the past or today – literally, today – that is exculpatory or suggests that any of the accusations are anything less than legitimate. He is still abusing these women. And he is abusing us all.
Put ten women in front of me who have stories that fit together, who look alike in many ways, and who are clearly not reading from the same hymnal, and you are going to be very hard-pressed to get me to doubt them, or any one of them, really.
Trump is right about one thing. If this is a conspiracy and they have all been put up to this, it is the greatest conspiracy ever. Because it all fits (and doesn’t fit) absolutely perfectly.
And never in the history of the world have there been less reputable, less believable “eyewitnesses” than the ones being rolled out by Trump as “evidence.”
Of course, most people believe he did this. Even those who still support him.
And that is why I have no sense of humor left. Because there are people comfortable looking away from their belief that they are electing a serial sexual predator. Can’t hide behind God or taxes on that one, folks.
If you vote for Trump under these circumstances, knowing in your heart that he did these deeds, you are no different than church officials rotating priests they knew to be sexual predators to new parishes to escape arrest.
Trump is 70 now. But would you leave him alone with your precocious 15-year-old daughter? Would you be comfortable with your 22-year-old niece going to his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel to “talk business” over dinner?
This is a teachable moment. But only if we all open our eyes and stop living in a past where we remember America as great, but in which child molestation, rape, backroom abortion, overt racism, anti-Semitism, and so on were below the radar but widely accepted as the norm.
We are now talking, without irony, about electing a man who we know, in our hearts, is a sexual predator. There is no statute of limitations on that being okay. It is not okay. It will never be okay. And if he is elected, unless completely cleared by some act of God, it will give America deep emotional distress… unspoken guilt… knowing that we did this to ourselves. Even if he isn’t the worst president ever and all of his threats are hollow. It’s not about the sex acts… it’s about the emotion that comes with them. We will mourn what we thought America was.
I can’t smile and laugh about what a jackass this man is anymore.
But if you can, you might want to stay clear of me for the next few weeks.
The Accountant opens to almost the exact same amount as The Girl On The Train last week… which means whatever you think it means. Not disastrous… not cause for celebration. Only three films open to $7500 per-screen overall, none on more than five screens. The strongest of those was Certain Women by Kelly Reichardt, her career-best opening.
The most interesting thing about this weekend is that it may be pretty much the same again next weekend. There are FOUR wide openings next weekend. Three are sequels or franchise extensions. All four could come up short of $20 million openings. Though the last Madea movie was the first to open under $25 million (with $16m), with this group it has to be the favorite to “win” the weekend.
The first Jack Reacher opened to $16m. Ouija opened to $19.9m and in the pre-Halloween slot, people could be in the mood to have it open at #1 next weekend.
The wild card is the comedy, Keeping Up With The Joneses, which looks like a lot of fun… but has leads who don’t really open movies. So if it’s great (seeing it later this week), it could leg it out… but hard time opening over $15m even in this crowd.
But… The Accountant is not a great opening. The Girl on The Train was not a great opening. Sully and The Magnificent Seven are looking a lot better this month than they did last month.
The box office will turn back up the week after as Inferno is likely to have a $40m plus opening going into a massive November.
It’s silly, mostly, to try to get macro answers out of micro evidence. This has not been a bad year at the box office. But it is fair to say that there has not been much excitement from the distributors themselves about the product in the last two months. And this is somewhat a result of the bifurcation of the product between huge and small, as well as the lean towards foreign box office for some product.
For instance… Miss Peregrine is about to pass $200 million worldwide, doing double overseas what it did here. Fox clearly saw that coming. Likewise for Universal and Bridget Jones’ Baby, which is over $165m worldwide, $23m of which is domestic. How much heat came off the pitches in the U.S., anticipating foreign to be the driving successes?
Was Warner Bros obsessed with getting The Accountant to blow up when their cash cow, Fantastic Beasts, is a month away?
I’m not saying they weren’t trying. I’m not saying they didn’t spend. I’m not saying they didn’t care.
But there is magic in selling, just as there is in making movies. From where I sit, you can see the energy flowing or not. You can feel whether a movie feels like life & death to a team or is just another piece of product.
And no matter how great the passion, marketing teams sometimes fail. And surprisingly often, when they throw the movie like they can’t wait to get away from it, they have hits. To say it is an inexact science would be to understate the issue.
But these people – who are quite brilliant about many things – are just people. Like anyone, they are distracted by the circumstances around each and every movie they have to sell. So when the field tilts this way or that, they adjust. It’s just human nature.
And this weekend? It was okay. Decent openings. Decent holds. Just nothing to write home about.
The last time the top movie of the week did over $10,000 per screen was… Suicide Squad‘s second weekend. There were three weekends of this kind all summer. This is the 10th straight weekend without a $10k per screen film on top. Do I think about per-screen for wide release movies a lot? No. But does it show a lack of enthusiasm for 2.5 months? Yeah.
It is too easy – lazy even – to dismiss Ang Lee’s latest out of hand. It is not your standard issue failure.
All the actors do well with what they are asked to do, especially Kristen Stewart (I’d have liked to have seen the movie about that character) and newcomer Joe Alwyn, who is really asked to carry the whole movie.
I can’t really blame the screenplay because it’s secondary to the visual event.
But the look eats the movie whole. And keep in mind that I have been completely open to digital filmmaking from the start.
Ang Lee said something before the film that turned out to be significant. He talked about the increased frame rate and how faces really tell stories… so (I extrapolated), this new format would let him leave more to faces.
In one scene, particularly, he changes styles to test this idea in a very tight close-up of Steve Martin’s head. And my interest was stirred.
But most of the movie feels like it was shot with the visual style we are used to from Mr. Lee, but with giant technical hurdles added.
Essentially, he made the absolute cutting edge version of a “Playhouse 90″ episode with some extra bells and whistles, and color.
There were some great Playhouse 90 episodes, made by some great directors. And I will return to Billy Lynn with no expectations of the new format and try to see it that simply.
Did it look beautiful in many ways? Yes. Big colors are stunning in this format. The film’s ingenue, Makenzie Leigh, wore a top with the center cut out and her breasts glued in to the premiere. Her faux Dallas Cowboy cheerlanders outfit, in this format, popped a million times harder with its vivid colors and show little, tease everything style.
Every time it felt like Lee was about to bust out a visual extravaganza… he just didn’t. Clearly a choice. Very Ang Lee. It it felt like a 2 hour tease.
I would be happy to see some serious directors try this format and find a unique language for it. Including Ang Lee. It’s like he was trying so hard to manage the new format that he wasn’t fully inspired to take advantage of the new format.
As for awards, except for tech awards, forget it. None of the supporting players have enough to do and the lead, however handsome, is at the start of a career, not at a pinnacle.
There’s no reason that someone couldn’t make a great film that feel like video/TV I. The future. But if the format is important to that greatness it will be be ause rhe filmmaker found a new language for film. Steven Spielberg didn’t find one. Peter Jackson didn’t find one. Ang Lee hasn’t found one.
The Girl on The Train underperforms its opening day, likely a reflection of weather on the east coast. Miss Peregrine and Deepwater Horizon hold well in light of same. The other two openings, Birth of a Nation and Middle School barely land. Neither will generate $3500 per screen despite relatively small screen count for wide releases.
Before we get all hysterical about the box office (AGAIN!!!), this opening for The Girl on The Train is disappointing, especially vs the Friday number. But the only film that opened better in October 2015 was The Martian. It would have been the #3 opening of October 2014. And there is still a legit shot at this film getting to $100 million domestic.
On the other hand… a crap run of movies lately.
The Birth of a Nation comes to market hobbled. Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life is marketed off a book series, but the title unavoidably creates a tiny, tiny niche.
Going back a week, Fox treated Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children like a stepchild instead of like a big Tim Burton event and Deepwater Horizon, which performed within expectations, never seemed to push for anyone who wasn’t in the well-defined blue collar and military niche for that kind of film (see: Peter Berg, lately) to see the film.
And as much as kids love talking animals… in 2016, they also know that storks don’t bring babies.
Sully, a good movie, is hitting its weight. And so is The Magnificent Seven… a not very good movie.
But as always, what the market needs is simple… movies that make people think they want to see them. Good or bad. Genre or not. Awards-y or not.
The job of making it happen is hard. But the principle is simple. And it’s only partially on the movies themselves. Box office success happens at all levels of quality. Opening is opening, not a quality referendum.
Do people want to see The Accountant? The marketing is being tuned to what WB thinks people will want, not what the movie is. That is the way it works.
Of course, WB has Fantastic Beasts coming and a 2017 with seven event movies on the schedule. And they will ride Sully into award season with great intensity. So things are shifting over in Burbank.
Anyway… another crap weekend at the indies. The big hits are a Chinese actioner, Operation Mekong, and the (3rd, 4th, 5th) theatrical re-release of The Battle of Algiers, newly restored!
Zeitgeist and The Orchard also cracked the $5,000 per screen mark on single screens, though… though… this is a tough business. See both films (Blue Jay and Theo Who Lived) on VOD.
Three new 3000+ screen releases arrive to tepid audience interest. The best performer of the trio was the latest Tim Burton, at the bottom of his list of 2000+ screen non-animated openers. An action-drama about the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster just hit the $20 million bar. And a long-shelved release from the attempting-to-come-back Relativity barely registers.
Not a ton more to say about this weekend.
I don’t recall the last time three 3000+ screen movies opened on one weekend, I am a fan of two of the directors, and I didn’t see any of them before release. It’s a bad idea to personalize these things to come up with a general idea of how studios feel about their releases, but the studios for both of the higher grossers in the group have been all over me about other movies they are soon to release… and crickets on these two.
I’m not sure there was any more money than this in Deepwater Horizon. It’s not a religious or military play. And how many people really want to relive that moment?
Miss Peregrine? I loved their outdoor/wild-posting campaign. But the ad campaign felt like, “Here’s the premise… we don’t want to tell you anything remotely substantive about the story.” I don’t want whole stories in ads, but is it a coming of age? Are they under attack? Where is this film headed? No idea. I love Tim Burton and this still never became a priority for me, a primed, ready audience member.
Masterminds? Didn’t look good 18 months ago. Still looks dumb. But Ryan Kavanaugh has tweeted his way to me not really wanting to ever support a Relativity movie ever again. So, no big whoop. He has made a ton of schlock. A couple okay genre pictures. But as the face of the company, he seems invested in letting as many people as possible know that he is not only an extremist, but that has contempt for his potential audience.
Bleecker Street has another very good movie but that is is also a hard sell in Denial. It might have been easier if they had done more than dropped it at Toronto and walked away. They have a small problem in that its star is prepping for a tough stage show in NY and doesn’t have loose time. So you move the date. Still, solid numbers on five screens with a solid reach-out to the Jewish community. This is a timely movie, which happens to have the Jewish holocaust as its background.
Also opening with strong numbers on limited screens (four) is Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, an A24 special. Arnold is one of our great filmmakers who is extremely camera-shy.
Music Box’s A Man Called Ove, a movie I love and think audiences will adore, opened slowly. Music Box has overcome their small marketing budgets with slow, steady growth before. I still think this one could get nominated (and potentially win) the Oscar for Foreign Language. But it needs to be seen.
The month of epic mediocrity continues!!!
But everything is relative. Deepwater Horizon could be the highest grosser for Lionsgate year-to-date by the end of October ($66.3m is the target). The film opened with the same vibe as a major studio movie (and more like a studio spend than is often the case from Lionsgate), but if it was a WB film, a (hopeful) $70m domestic gross would be seen as disappointing. But as Lionsgate, this feels like a strong number.
Meanwhile, Fox didn’t seem fully committed to much of an opening for Miss Peregrine, their first Tim Burton movie in 15 years. And the opening, while not a disaster, is mediocre as Burton visual extravaganzas go. They’d have to be happy with Dark Shadows number about now. But remember… DS did almost &250m worldwide and Peregrine seems to be the kind of movie that could hit internationally… a quirky X-Men (on which Fox doesn’t share the IP).
Masterminds’ second release effort is as mediocre as the original push seemed likely to be. The opening, even with all that comedy star power, should land dead smack on the middle of the list of 34 Relativity openings. After 17 months in the distribution business, they’re 0 for 2. The future is a curiosity.
Sully passes $100m today. Solid. International has been ok and they are holding the film for the post-Thanksgiving period in some key US-friendly markets. $200m worldwide is a realistic possibility.
Denial and American Honey are the limiteds that will crack the $10k per screen barrier this weekend. Both worth your time and then some…